Where does the time go? With Alabama preparing to host Mississippi State in a Southeastern Conference softball series this weekend at Rhoads Stadium, we are reminded that Vann Stuedeman, former Bama assistant coach, is in her fifth season as head coach of the Bulldogs. That means it has been almost five years since Crimson Tide Coach Patrick Murphy had his brief flirtation as head coach at LSU, before returning to Alabama.
Alabama team has continued to be one of the nation’s best under Murphy, and last week was particularly noteworthy. First of all, the Crimson Tide went to Gainesville to take on top-ranked Florida and came home with a series victory, taking two of three games from the Gators.
Bama returned home for a Tuesday game and romped Mississippi Valley State, 14-0, for the 1,000th win in program history, almost all of those wins under Murphy. Bama accomplished the milestone in its 20th season of competition and became the fourth SEC team to reach 1,000 wins. Since Alabama started its program the same year the SEC began softball, how is it that three other teams reached the 1,000-win plateau before Alabama?
Those teams weren’t traditional SEC powerhouses like Tennessee, Florida, and LSU. They were Texas A&M, Missouri, and South Carolina. The common denominator is that those schools were started softball long before even being members of the SEC – Texas A&M and Missouri, former members of the Big 12, starting their programs in 1975, former Independent South Carolina starting in 1977. Alabama began in 1997.
This year’s Tide is 32-7 overall and 5-4 in SEC play. Mississippi State is 21-15 overall and 2-7 in conference play. Although Bama has an all-time record of 53-10 against the Bulldogs, although State has won the last two games in the series.
The teams meet at Rhoads Stadium beginning at 6:30 p.m. CDT today (Friday) and follow the opener with games at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 Sunday.
Alabama’s offense ranks third in the SEC with 325 hits, including a league-leading 13 triples. The Tide is equally effective with its small-ball offense, dropping 27 sacrifice bunts, which is second in the SEC. In conference-only games, Alabama has the third-highest batting average (.286)
Alabama pitching has been stingy, allowing third-fewest runs (82) in the SEC and the fewest walks (58). In SEC play, Alabama’s 54 hits allowed is the lowest in the conference.
The Tide defense has made quite a difference in many close games this season, posting a .974 fielding percentage along with the league’s second-fewest errors (24). The team has been even better in SEC play, posting a .978 fielding percentage with a league-low five errors.